What Teeth Issues Are Important For Older Adults?

People are living longer lives, so our teeth have to last longer. Many issues can negatively affect our teeth and shorten their lifespan. revention of these issues can help your teeth last a lifetime.

From 1960 to 2019, the average adult life expectancy in the United States increased from 70 years to 79 years. This means that our teeth have to last 10 years longer than our grandparents teeth had to last. However, even though the average is 79 years old, many people are now living well into the 80’s, 90’s, and even past 100 years. There are several issues than can affect your teeth, and those extra years result in a lot of wear and tear on your teeth. You have to be intentional in taking care of your teeth to make them last a lifetime.

So what are the issues that I must be aware of to make sure my teeth last a lifetime?

  1. Dry Mouth – Saliva is a fluid in the mouth that forms a protective coating over the teeth; reduces the acidity of food and liquids that we consume; moistens the mouth, cheeks, and tongue to keep them more comfortable; and also moistens food making it easier to swallow. As we age, our bodies produce less saliva. Saliva production can also be greatly reduced as a side effect of many medications. Anti-histamines for allergies, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications all have a side effect of dry mouth. If you take more than one of these edications, then the dry mouth effect is even worse. Dry mouth is annoying, can be painful, and makes you more susceptible to teeth cavities and gum problems. Drinking lots of water, using salivary stimulants, and possibly having your physician prescribe alternative medications, all can help to reduce the effects of dry mouth.
  2. Receding Gums – Over the years, the gums can recede away from the tooth as a result of gum disease, brushing too hard, or even by grinding your teeth. The result is that the root surface of the tooth, which is normally covered by the gums, becomes exposed. The problem with the receding gums is that the newly exposed root part of the tooth is much softer than the rest of the tooth. This makes it easier to get cavities, and once a cavity starts on the root of the tooth, it can grow and spread very quickly. Root caries, cavities on the exposed root part of the tooth, are one of the main reasons for tooth loss in the later years of life. This cavity weakens the tooth, and often results in the tooth breaking off at the gum-line which then has to be extracted. This issue has to be addressed very intentionally with fluoride, fillings, or gum grafts, as the effects can be catastrophic.
  3. Decreased Dexterity and Vision – Aging often results in a reduced ability to see up close, and arthritis can make it difficult to hold and use a toothbrush, or floss, properly. These issues make proper oral hygiene difficult and can result in harmful bacteria building up inside your mouth. An electric toothbrush, and a water pick, can make brushing, and cleaning in between the teeth, much easier and more effective, as these tools do all the work for you.
  4. Lack of Transportation to Dental Appointments – Losing the ability to drive, for whatever reason, results in drastic changes in your life. You no longer have the independence to come and go as you please. This includes the inability to go to dental appointments by yourself. You become dependent on others to get you to your appointments, and this can present multiple obstacles. The importance of twice a year preventative care professional teeth cleanings cannot be overemphasized. During these visits harmful bacteria that can cause cavities or gum problems are removed. X-rays and examinations of your teeth are also completed so that any cavities, gum problems, or other issues, such as oral cancer or teeth grinding, can be detected in their earliest stages. Early detection of these potential problems allows for corrective treatment that is less expensive, less invasive, and less painful, than if the problem is allowed to progress and become a larger problem. Missing these appointments may allow small problems to silently become more severe over time. Securing reliable transportation so you don’t miss these important appointments will help to assure that your oral health is at its best.
  5. Cavities – Tooth decay, or cavities, are areas of permanent damage to the teeth. A small cavity requires a small filling to fix the tooth. Overtime the filling starts to break down requiring a larger filling. The larger filling eventually breaks down, and now the tooth needs a crown. So gradually over the years, more and more of the natural tooth is lost, and that can be a problem when you need your teeth to last 80 or 90 years. Good oral hygiene, including frequent brushing and flossing, along with a fluoride mouth rinse can help prevent cavities from ever starting.
  6. Teeth Clenching or Grinding – Most people grind their teeth from time to time. You can grind your teeth during your sleep and not even be aware that you are doing it. Occasional teeth grinding has minimal effects, but when teeth grinding occurs more frequently and more aggressively, it can literally wear away your teeth. The lower front teeth are small to begin with, so it doesn’t take much before these teeth can end up being half their original size. Teeth grinding also causes cracks in the teeth, tooth sensitivity, gum recession, and jaw muscle soreness. Wearing a night guard can help to help protect your teeth and preserve tooth structure.
  7. Gum Disease and Bone Loss – When teeth are not cleaned frequently enough, bacteria begins to accumulate around the teeth and beneath the gums. This causes the gums to get red, puffy, inflamed, and bleed. As the bacteria extend deeper into the gums, the bone begins to shrink away. As more and more bone is lost over time, the tooth can eventually become loose and even fall out. Good oral hygiene and professional teeth cleanings can help to prevent gum disease.

Your teeth have to last a long time, and there are many factors that can negatively affect the health of your teeth. However, a few measures can help to make sure that your teeth last your lifetime. To meet with Dr. Yost and develop a strategic plan to keep your teeth healthy, click the link to below to schedule an appointment.